Bulletin, 1061, Using Your Smartphone to Enhance Your Farm Business in Maine
Developed by Tori Lee Jackson, Associate Professor of Agriculture & Natural Resources, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Reviewed by Lucie B. Amundsen, Locally Laid Egg Company; Abby Sadauckas, Apple Creek Farm; Sue Lanpher, Maine Farmland Trust; Erin Roche, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
You likely have a smartphone in your pocket, so why not use it to make your farm business more efficient and more profitable? If your phone’s primary use is to make calls, here are some of the many things this modern tool can do:
Market Your Products
- Promoting your farm & its products: Post to your farm’s social media accounts. If you use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to interact with your customers, don’t forget to shoot photos of your day-to-day activities to promote the connection to your customers.
- Update your farm’s website: An out-of-date website creates a negative impression on your potential customers. If your store hours are changing, CSA sign-ups are underway, or a new pricing structure has been put in place, be sure it’s reflected on your website! Refreshed sites also come up in Google searches more often.
- Create a blog post or newsletter: Sites such as WordPress and MailChimp have mobile applications making it easy to incorporate photos and text into new content for your readers.
Manage Your Farm Finances
- Make purchases from the field: Run out of bailing twine or fish emulsion in the middle of a busy day? Place an order online and have items shipped to you without missing a beat.
- Accept payment via credit, debit or EBT cards: There are many point-of-sale (POS) software packages that allow you to quickly swipe a card whether you are at the Farmers’ Market or your own farm store. You can use your POS solution to invoice customers as well.
- Do some banking: Deposit a check, make a transfer, or simply check a balance.
- Track your expenses: Lost receipts here and there can really add up over the course of a year. Get in the habit of taking photos of receipts in case you lose them. There are expense programs such a Concur that can help with this. You’ll be glad you did at tax time.
- Manage Your Inventory: Do you use barcoded labels on your retail products? Use your phone to quickly scan barcodes or QR codes to manage inventory.
- Precision location: Use GPS to accurately map field boundaries or to allow someone to locate you if there is an accident.
- Connect to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone: to scout large fields or check on herds without leaving your truck.
- Check security cameras any time without paying a monthly fee for monitoring.: Wifi-enabled cameras placed around your farm can quickly be checked on your smartphone so you can see if your goat is about to give birth in the barn or if you have a customer at the unmanned farm stand.
- Your phone is a calculator: Quickly calculate fertilizer, pesticide, manure, or other applications from the field. You can also download labels and look up safety information.
- Your phone is a timepiece: Track your time using a stopwatch and Excel. Your time is the most valuable asset on the farm. Be sure you are accounting for it properly by periodically recording how long it takes you to do chores, cultivate a field, or prepare CSA shares.
- Your phone as a calendar: You may have one hanging in your kitchen, office, or barn, but tracking planting, birth, cultivation, or delivery dates is easiest if you have access to your calendar at all times. You can also have access to calendars of family members, employees, and others.
- Availability of essential tools close at hand: Much like a Swiss Army knife, your smartphone can function as a notepad, timer, flashlight, phone book, contact list, level, camera, siren, magnifying lens, fan motor, plane ticket, and even a credit card.
- Record and send photos and videos to your veterinarian: If you’re not sure whether to load your cow into a trailer and head to the clinic, send your vet some visual information that may save you a day’s time and a lot of money.
- Quickly access any file you have on your computer: If you use a cloud-storage system, you can connect to find an old invoice, part number, photo, or any other file you have stored or backed up.
- Use voice memos to remind yourself to place orders you cannot on your phone, or where that section of broken fence is.
- Streamline: Using simple online forms you can track production on your farm and save it to a spreadsheet in the cloud making calculating feed use or egg production a breeze.
- Manage your “to do” list and share with your crew: A variety of free and paid programs can connect to your email account and online calendar to create notifications and assign tasks to different users.
- Access online classifieds: Facebook and Craigslist can be accessed and configured to create custom searches, saving you time and money by helping you find what you need and within a specific geographic range.
- Communicate Efficiently: Text your employees with quick updates rather than making a phone call or hopping in the truck. If you have simple instructions, save time by sending a text. It also serves as a written record with times, quantities, etc. that can easily be referred back to. Text messages can be dictated to your phone if you have trouble with typing on the small keyboard on your screen.
- Email using your phone: Communicate via email with your suppliers and customers without sitting in front of your computer. Quick replies save time and reflect well on your business’ reputation.
- Replace your watch: Of course, your phone can also be used for phone calls, but it is also a great tool for keeping contact information in one easily searchable place.
- Information at your fingertips: Get pest and weather reports in real time. Windspeed, temperature, precipitation, or an influx of insects all impact the decisions you need to make every day.
- New Ideas & Entertainment: Listen to farming podcasts while in the truck or tractor. Download podcasts over WiFi at home (to conserve your mobile data) and use your drive time to learn something new or hear what your farmer peers are up to.
- Solve crop problems: Identify a weed or insect pest in seconds. The first step in managing a pest is proper identification. There are many apps (both free and paid) that allow you to snap a photo and find out instantly if you need to take action or ignore an unfamiliar species.
- Learn a new skill on demand: Not all repairs require a skilled professional. Check YouTube for tutorial videos on how to replace a leaky pipe, repair your tractor, or tie a strong knot on the go.
- Connect to remote sensors to get real-time data on soil conditions, weather, weed growth, light, humidity, and many other factors that affect your farm production.
This is just a short list of ways you could use your smartphone around the farm. Many features are standard and thousands more are just a download away from the Google Play (for Android phones) or Apple App Store (for iPhones).
If there are other ways you use a smartphone to manage your farm business, we’d like to know about it. Please send any suggested additions to this list to Extension Educator Tori Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.
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